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Niche products might be all the buzz in today’s beauty market, but will the emerging brands have staying power? That was one of the key points made by Jennifer Walsh, chief executive officer and founder of Pride & Glory and the keynote presenter at the recent HBA Global conference on June 9 held at the Jacob K. Javits Center.

Emerging brands and the role social media plays in beauty were among the major themes at HBA Global which took place June 14 through June 16 and also featured speakers from Estée Lauder, Cargo and The Beauty Matchmakers.

Social media is propelling interest, according to Walsh, citing statistics that 66 percent of beauty consumers made a decision to buy a niche or new brand because of a YouTube video. But once the consumer has decided to try, brands must ensure repeat purchase. Walsh encouraged marketers to take a hard look at their brands. “Does it fill a void? Does the company have the money to not only launch but also survive? Where does the product ‘sit’ in the landscape,” she asked those looking to get in on the independent beauty bonanza.

Walsh delved into the power of digital on beauty, noting that it opens up a dialogue for people to have frank product discussions. “Seventy percent of consumers feel reassured when they read positive comments,” she said, noting that products need more than just advertising to get consumers to dig into their pockets. “Consumers choose the brands that engage them on their passions and interests 42 percent more often than they do those that simply urge them to buy the product being advertised.”

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Mobile devices are becoming a pivotal tool in beauty buying decisions. Walsh revealed data showing that product reviews, product information and product comparisons are the three leading areas of search on cellphones or other tablets. One tip she shared was that 55 percent of beauty shoppers who saw a mobile ad featuring a beauty product searched for more information within 24 hours. “This is only the beginning of how nimble digital niche brands will change the beauty landscape,” Walsh said.

Walsh is not a stranger to nurturing niche brands – both as a retailer and now a marketer. Before there was Sephora, social media and omnichannel retailers, Walsh gained exposure for up-and-coming brands such as Fresh, Stila, Philosophy and La Mer as a frequent beauty expert appearing on numerous television shows (in fact, the term On Air Beauty Expert was created for her). Flooded with requests on where to buy those brands, she opened her own stores called The Beauty Bar, which ushered those niche players into new markets. After selling her company to Quidsi (which Amazon now owns), Walsh was inspired to create a personal-care brand called Pride & Glory bearing the logos of many of the country’s top college sports teams. A major component of her brand is giving back to charities of each university. There are now five stockkeeping units currently bearing the logos of eight universities with growth plans for 2016. The line is sold in bookstores, specialty stores, online, sporting-good stores and home goods stores. Exposure is also coming from realtors staging homes with local college Pride & Glory items.

HBA Global wasn’t Walsh’s only recent speaking engagement. She became the first female graduate ever to present the commencement address at her alma mater, Belmont Abbey College in Charlotte, N.C. She added, “It was probably one of the most incredible experiences of my life.”